Being my bookish self, I loved finding a book I’d never before seen called Reading the Classics with C.S. Lewis, just sitting on the shelf at Agia Sophia while I waited for my cappuccino. Lewis is one of my favorite authors- companion of my wildest imaginations in childhood and then mentor/older brother to my dire spiritual quests in my teen years. This particular volume appealed to my writer’s heart as it is a step by step examination of Lewis as professor of literature and literary critic. This aspect of Lewis is often superseded by his reputation as storyteller and apologist, yet it made up the main bulk of his life. I’m a bookworm anyway, so I’ve loved every chapter (each focues on one period in literary history, examining Lewis’ knowledge and love of the works from that era) simply for the celebration of stories through the centuries. I’ve put together a great book list for myself.
Beyond that, I’ve had a bit of a revelation as I’ve seen how deeply Lewis was shaped by every single story he read. It’s so easy to think of him as this naturally brilliant guy- speaker, writer, apologist, professor, just one of those gifted people whose minds were diamond sharp from birth. But this book convinces me that his skills (at least in part) weren’t happenstance. He was trained from boyhood to be a reader, to be immersed in the vivid imaginations of everyone from the Greeks to Spenser, to Shakespeare, to Tolkien. His reading was wide, varied, and attentive. He was taught, and taught others, to take each word and metaphor and image encountered within the pages of literature and mine it for treasures of meaning, insight, illumination. He had an incredibly strong mind, but its because he had a robust life of reading, thinking, and then, creating. Every word he read, every symbol he encountered, every imaginative metaphor, every image of god or planet or beast worked its way into his mind and then reformed itself in the stories he told. There’s no denying the fact that Lewis was a brilliant man, but I am beginning to see how much of his brilliance was enhanced by the stories that formed and gave a fuller vocabulary to his imagination. His incredible output of imaginary and apologetic brilliance in his books was, at least in part, the direct result of a lifetime of trained reading.
I want to be like that. You know how once in awhile you come across something, an experience, a book, a moment in prayer, that reveals your own soul to you. It’s as if something in that moment leaps out to join something in you that was waiting to be released and validated, and you come alive to a sense of purpose. I’ve felt that way lately. I’ve always known I loved to write, loved to think, to see truth illumined through story. But its the golden moments I’ve discovered in books like this one that have helped me to know for sure that one of the main things (mind now, there are others too, but this one for now) I want to do with my life is learn to be a strong thinker and skilled storyteller.
That’s why I’ve decided to finally submit my wild-eyed gypsy self to the temporary confines of college. Now is as good a time as any to tell you that I’m thinking I’ll be heading off to Houghton College (in NY) in the fall of this year, to start their degree course in Creative Writing & English. It’s one of those decisions that seems so far off in the mist enshrouded future that it hardly feels real, but unless God changes my life/heart/mind, I know with a will and a vim that what I want to do is be a writer, a storyteller, a thinker, and I want the training that only a great literary education can provide. Yes, I’ll be 25. A freshman at 25. Now there’s an adventure for you. But I love adventures.
More on that as the journey progresses. For now, I am writing my talk for the upcoming conferences with Wholeheart, scheduling the editing for my book, and helping move Joel to Boston where he’s attending Berklee. Life’s crazy and beautiful and overwhleming and very, very good. I hope your January is off to a brilliant start. Next post: English Postcards!
A gorgeous day to you friends.